LOS ANGELES – Nike has decided to stop making products for disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong’s cancer charity Livestrong, but will still support the group financially, the sports products giant said.
The Livestrong Collection, which includes footwear, apparel and accessories, will be phased out at the end of the year, the company said, bringing down the curtain on what has been a globally recognized brand for almost a decade.
Exemplified by the distinctive yellow Livestrong wristband, of which Nike said 87 million had been distributed worldwide, the decision will inevitably be seen as the company’s latest step to rid itself of Armstrong’s toxic legacy.
“Nike has made the decision to stop producing new Livestrong products after its Holiday 2013 line,” the company said in a statement.
“We will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation by funding them directly as they continue their work serving and improving outcomes for people facing cancer.”
The Austin, Texas based charity earlier announced the end of the partnership, thanking Nike — which cut all other ties with Armstrong last October — saying the collaboration had helped raise over $100 million.
The foundation “is deeply grateful to Nike not only for the time and resources it invested in helping us improve the lives of people affected by cancer… but also the creative drive it brought to our nine-year partnership.
“While the Foundation created and owns the Livestrong brand, Nike shone a spotlight on the spirit of courage and resilience it represents,” it said.
The charity played down the potential impact on Livestrong, noting that the announcement would “prompt some to jump to negative conclusions,” about its future.
“We see things quite differently. We expected and planned for changes like this and are therefore in a good position to adjust swiftly and move forward with our patient-focused work.
“Because of our sound fiscal health, the Foundation is well-positioned to continue to grow our free services for cancer patients and survivors that improve quality of life and access to care.”
Livestrong evolved from The Lance Armstrong Foundation, though the two were widely seen as synonymous.
Livestrong, however, developed its own spirit long before Armstrong stepped down as its chairman last year, and he subsequently left the board entirely.
A Nike spokeswoman, Mary Remuzzi, meanwhile, said she had no specifics about how much or in what form Nike funds Livestrong.
Armstrong was an inspirational figure for millions after recovering from testicular cancer and then winning the world’s most celebrated cycling event, the Tour de France, seven times in a row.
But the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) banned Armstrong and stripped him of his titles last year.
The former cyclist chose not to fight the doping accusations and admitted — after years of strenuous denials — later in an interview with US talk show host Oprah Winfrey that he had used banned, performance enhancing substances.
Despite Tuesday’s announcement, Nike insisted: “We are proud of the collective efforts between Nike and the Livestrong Foundation to raise more than $100 million to help people with cancer.”
The partnership had also helped improve health outcomes for more than 2.5 million people with free cancer support services, programs and other resources.
In February — one month after Armstrong’s televised confession — Livestrong, which has raised more than $500 million, said it hoped to expand its services to directly help more than 15,500 cancer survivors a year.